CENTRAL HOBBIES: A pilgrimage.

It’s been awhile and I’ve been quite busy with non-train related things, mostly work.

This week I was sent across the country to White Rock, BC for some work-related business.

To my surprise and excitement (and the disdain of my colleagues who enjoy uninterrupted sleep), the hotel I was put up in was right across from the BNSF line, just a couple KMs from the Douglas / Peace Arch Border Crossing.

Between conferences, I managed to find some downtime to make the pilgrimage into Vancouver to visit Central Hobbies, which is slated to close in June 2023.

Where I live, there isn’t a model train focused hobby shop, so you can imagine dropping me into the midst of a store the size of Central Hobbies would be much like shooting me into space.

The N-Scale test track that lives in the front window of Central Hobbies.

I spent over two hours browsing the store, spoke to the store owner Hal and a few other employees about their time with the store; I even had to step outside one time to collect myself- the selection was just THAT wild! I felt like a kid again.

As hard as I tried to resist the urge to drag some boxcars across the country with me, I left with two CN Cylindrical Hoppers, a BCR Boxcar and a Point St Charles Caboose undecorated kit.

While it’s a shame that Central Hobbies is closing its doors, this was an experience I’ll never forget, and I’m glad I made the time to see it before it’s gone.

From 40,000ft,


A Central of Georgia Flat Car, an exercise in time machines and pan pastels. (HO Scale)

In the last minutes of 2020 I sat, bored, at my work bench and decided to start a Tichy 4021 kit I had on hand.

My original plan for the kit was to modify it to be a CNR A-1 Pre-war Flat car, as outlined by Stafford Swain in CN Lines V5 N3- but as will be revealed below that didn’t happen. (But has since happened with a couple other kits, which will be covered in a future blog post.)

I was so into the build that I decided to just build the kit as it was for once, not worrying about making it accurate or performing any major surgery.

This was a nice thought as I built the kit, however after I finished the construction I realized that it’s inaccuracy would bother me if lettered for CN.

So, I began the hunt for a railroad that ran a car close in construction to the Tichy kit as built.

What I came across was the Central of Georgia, whose historical society is restoring a flat car very similar to this, and is even selling Tichy kits packaged with the correct trucks and CG decals with all proceeds going towards the cars restoration. I decided this would make an interesting prototype, and ordered some decals.

I painted the car black, with Vallejo “NATO Black”, and the deck with Tamiya “Wooden Deck Tan” – the latter a recommendation from Pierre Oliver’s November 2020 blog post “Flat car decks, a better way?”.

The car as it was before the application of pan pastels. You can see here that I over-sprayed the decals with Nato Black to take the crisp, white newness out of them and add some pre-weathering.

At this point I managed to knock one of the plastic Tichy stirrups off the car; so I removed the rest of them with my spru cutters and replaced them with A-Line stirrups that I had “squared” up by heating them over a candle, flattening them out and re-bending them with chain nose pliers, a Bill Welch technique, and a worthy upgrade to any car.

After I had the car painted and the stirrups fixed, I applied future floor polish with my airbrush and then lettered the car. The lettering makes the car accurate for about 1947, about ten years before my layout at Vernon River takes place- so if it appears on the siding somebody invented a time machine. After lettering, I simply brushed some future over the decals to seal them and then airbrushed the car with Vallejo Matt Varnish- which is now going to be my go-to flat finish.

Again, following Pierre’s previously mentioned blog post I applied pan pastels to the cars deck. This was my first time using pan pastels and man, I love them! They are so intuitive to use, blend super smoothly and are actually pretty hard to mess up.

While this car isn’t even close to being accurate for my era, it’s still an interesting prototype and is fairly accurate within its self. I’m really happy with how this project turned out, and it was a great test-bed for pan pastels. I am still waiting on the proper Andrew’s trucks to arrive, but I’m way to excited to not share the car just how it is.

Coming down the pipe: an update on my CNR Reefer scratch builds, building two Sylvan CNR Wooden Express Reefer kits (just need to be lettered now), modifying two Tichy flat car kits to CNR A-3 Pre-War Flat cars and scratch building a 46’1” CNR flat.

While my blog posting has been lacking, I’ve been building more now than I ever have before. I have 4 or 5 different projects on the go and it feels really nice to be back at it with the passion I had before.

Stay tuned. CM

Back In The Game

“I’m back.“

While some people found a great opportunity to focus on their modelling during the COVID lockdown, I found myself in the exact opposite headspace.

It’s difficult to articulate in writing; however, with so many big life changes, world changes, etc. occurring in such a short time frame, my brain was knocked into such a position in which the things that I usually love to do and enjoy no longer brought me any joy or interest.

In summary: depression happened.

As I am no stranger to depression (something I’ve battled my entire adult life), I was able to recognize that I was not myself and knew that it was something I would have to ride out until I worked through it.

Yesterday while I found myself collecting a bucket of ballast [which will likely make its own post someday soon] on the abandoned Borden Sub in the rain, I realized that what I was doing was being done out of genuine interest. “I’m back,” I said to myself, out loud.

The brighter days are indeed on the immediate horizon, and I am starting to find interest in the things I enjoy again: one of which is my interest in railroading and modelling.

I’m not writing this for sympathy; I just don’t think it’s something we as modellers talk about enough. It’s important, and we all deal with it at some point.

Let’s face it, we’re all artists here: artists historically feel their emotions vividly, and we all do things to escape our realities, aka modelling.

But sometimes, even those reality escaping mechanisms don’t work.

I am writing this to say that if you didn’t do any modelling at all during this pandemic and maybe are still finding it hard to concentrate or be interested, don’t beat yourself up. 

It’ll come back. I did. Talk to me if you want.


Special delivery… (70 Tonner decals)

Just wanted to poke my head in and give a little mail-day update..

Backstory: Last fall I designed and 3D printed a accurate footboard assembly for my long-stalled Kaslo 70 Tonner project. This was a detail that had been bothering me for some time and I just couldn’t seem to get it right by scratch-building with styrene. This 3D printed part gets me over that hump, but in order to finish the project I still needed decals…

Receiving the test parts from Shapeways was the inspiration I needed to finally get off my behind and get decals made so I could finish the project.


CNR #38 at the Moncton, NB diesel shops. CSTM Collection.

Shortly before Christmas I began talks with Bill Brillinger from PDC.ca to make a custom set of decals for the ‘simplified’ second iteration of the green and gold livery the CNR 70 Tonners wore. I mailed him some reference material and to work he went.

After a few weeks of back and forth, I was very excited to see the PDC.ca envelope full of 70 Tonner decals arrive in my mailbox today.


As you can see, the decals turned out beautifully. Bill is an absolute joy to work with and he nailed what I was looking for. The decal set will do three locomotives with the ability to label any unit on the roster, although not all of them got this paint job.

While my super-detailed 44 Tonner will see lots of action on the layout, 70 Tonners were just as common and I’m excited to finish this project so I can run 70T #38 in mixed train service.